Newsflash: Aston Martin gaat AMG V8 vervangen door eigen hybride V6

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+++ I knew that ASTON MARTINis working on a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 hybrid that will fit into the forthcoming mid-engined Valhalla and Vanquish sports cars. Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer explained that the engine will effectively replace the Mercedes-AMG-sourced 4.0-liter V8: “Mercedes have made no secret of where their engine technology is moving to and obviously we don’t foresee 4-cylinder engines in our cars, so we’ve got to make our own journey”. The next AMG C 63 will be powered by a plug-in hybrid 4-cylinder. Aston Martin’s V6-for-V8 substitution means the Vantage, DB11, and DBX will eventually get V6 power, too, although it’s not clear when that will happen. Production of the Valhalla, the model that first brought news of the coming V6, is slated to begin in late 2021. Palmer all but said the 6-cylinder will be more powerful than the 8-cylinder it replaces because “there’s no way our customers are going to expect to step backward”, as far as output’s concerned. Regarding the Valhalla (photo), this car will need to produce at least as much as the 800 hp McLaren Senna to be regarded as a worthy opponent. Palmer agreed that was a fair assessment. At the other end, the V8-powered Vantage makes 510 hp, leaving plenty of room for graduated tunes among the sports cars. Engineers will need to focus on getting the sound right, Palmer adding, “As long as it feels like a V8 and sounds majestic, I think it’s a perfectly sensible way to go, and a lot more sensible than an [inline] four would be for us”. Electric help will take a less revolutionary form than we’re seeing in a number of modern super sports cars. The V6 won’t go plug-in, as Palmer is wary of the necessary weight gain. Lamborghini has spoken at length about its trouble finding suitable concepts for the next-gen hybrid powertrains for the Huracán and Aventador that provide an acceptable weight/performance balance. Aston Martin’s plan is apparently to stick with the Valkyrie template, putting an electric motor between the engine and a traditional transmission, instead of using a transmission with an integrated e-motor as seen on coupes like the Acura NSX and Ferrari SF90 Stradale. Aston Martin intends to go against the current in another way, too, at least for now. Fellow English luxury automaker Bentley is already considering Brexit consequences that could include moving more production outside of the United Kingdom; “When we look at the current model, where we just bring in built bodies and then do everything else here”, CEO Adrian Hallmark said. “It may be that we do more outside of the UK and then do the rest here. It may shift the balance, but we’re a long, long way from those discussions”. Palmer, on the other hand, said Aston Martin will build its V6 in Europe and move V12 production (currently done in Ford’s engine plant in Cologne, Germany) back to the UK. The $240 million investment led by new chairman Lance Stroll will help pay for Aston Martin’s car and engine plans. The new mill will be Aston Martin’s first V6-powered road car, and the automaker’s first road-car engine built in the UK since it gave up the 5.3-liter V8 developed by Tadek Marek and used in numerous products from 1968 to 2000. +++ 

+++ AUDI hopes to expand the appeal of its full-electric SUVs by adding sporty S versions of the e-Tron and e-Tron Sportback. The new models combine 3 electric motors for more power and greater control at high speeds in a bid to woo buyers who might have picked performance versions of Tesla’s Model X instead. Deliveries of both S-badged cars will start this summer, an Audi spokesman said. The e-Tron is already on sale, while deliveries of the coupe-styled e-tron Sportback starts at the beginning of April. Both S models use the same 95 kWh battery pack as the e-Tron 55 Quattro version, but boost peak power to 503 hp up from 408 hp. The extra power drops the 0-100 kph time to 4.5 seconds; down from 5.7 seconds. Top speed for the new models is 209 kph. The S models move the rear motor from the 55 model to the front axle and add 2 more motors to the rear axle. The 2 motors in the rear provide the main motive force in normal driving, with the front motor assisting when more acceleration is needed or when loss of grip is detected. The 2 rear motors also allow electric torque vectoring, where drive forces can be shuffled between the two rear wheels to aid both cornering, grip and even allow a drift mode in track situations. Audi says this brings a new dimension to its Quattro fourwheel drive. It is the first time 3 motors have been used in a mass-production electric car, the company claimed. The new S models will be differentiated from other e-Trons by means of design tweaks. The wheel arches on both cars are 23mm wider, while silver-colored elements enhance the front bumper, the grille and door inserts. Inside the cars feature prominent S badging. Production of the e-Tron in Audi’s plant in Brussels, Belgium, had to be paused late in February due to battery supply problems. The issue was due to a shortage of cells from Audi’s supply LG in Poland. Audi also uses cells from Samsung in Korea for the e-Tron, a spokesman told. “We hope the supply situation will stabilize in the coming weeks”, he added.  The price of the S models will be about €90,000 to €100,000, the spokesman said. +++

 

+++ We got a first look at BMW ’s new flatter and partially transparent logo on the i4 concept earlier this week. At the time it wasn’t clear if it would be adopted by the brand, but today, the Germans revealed that along with the reworked BMW i and BMW M logos, it will be used as a “new corporate identity for online and offline communication purposes”. According to the automaker’s marketing hyperbole, “the new design is an expression of the revised brand identity, which places the customer at the center of all activities”. In essence, getting rid of the black surround means BMW is customer-centric, or something like that. If that wasn’t enough of a stretch, the company says the new “pared-down and two-dimensional” look “conveys openness and clarity”. Of course, clarity is going to be an issue on white backgrounds. Continuing down the marketing rabbit hole, the automaker says the transparent ring is a “more open invitation than ever for customers to join the world of BMW. The change reflects BMW’s transition from centering purely on the automotive world to being about technology and connections”. The company added the new logo is “geared towards the challenges and opportunities of digitalization” and “expresses openness and strength of character to ensure a contemporary, future-proof presence both on- and offline”. BMW went on to say the logo better reflects the “expectations and visual style of today” and that’s hard to argue with as the faux 3D effect is very 90’s. Despite all the marketing fluff, BMW confirmed the new logo won’t be used at dealerships or on vehicles. That’s probably a good call as it would look terrible on white cars and dealership billboards. Instead, the new design will be used on all of the company’s communications as well as for trade fairs and events. The transition to the new logo will be complete by May 31st, 2021 and the company reiterated the old logo isn’t going away. Of course, that kind of defeats the point of creating a new logo in the first. Regardless, the company also introduced new versions of the BMW i and BMW M logos. They feature a flatter design that trades chrome-like accents for plain white details. +++ 

+++ BMW wants to boost the appeal of the Concept i4 by giving it a unique soundtrack. Launched under the BMW IconicSounds Electric moniker, it was created by Hans Zimmer and the company’s sound designer Renzo Vitale, and will be embedded into the automaker’s future electric vehicles. If you’re a cinephile, then you are probably familiar with the Hans Zimmer name. The 62-year old German is a composer and record producer, whose work has often brought him close to the movie industry. Zimmer worked on several blockbusters, including Rain Man, The Lion King, The Thin Red Line, Gladiator, Sherlock Holmes, Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk, The Dark Knight and The Last Samurai, for which he was recognized with dozens of trophies from the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, WAFCA, BFCA, DFWFCA and the Stephen Hawking Medal for the 2014 blockbuster Interstellar. “Renzo and I were inspired to bring together the past and future of BMW with the sound for the BMW Concept i4”, said Zimmer. “We hope the sound we created is classic yet surprising and has a feeling of lightness that is fitting for the BMW brand”. “Sound has always played an important role in the emotionalisation of our vehicles. Now we are taking the joy of sheer driving pleasure to a new level and are particularly pleased to be working with Hans Zimmer to create the new sound world of electric mobility at BMW”, added Senior VP of Customer and Brand, Jens Thiemer. “This collaboration will result in our forward-looking sound offering for electrified vehicles: BMW IconicSounds Electric”. Previewing a road-going version that will enter production next year, the BMW Concept i4 was unveiled earlier this week. It’s an electric show car with 530 hp and a battery capacity of around 80 kWh that gives it a range of 600 km in the WLTP cycle on a single charge. +++ 

+++ CZINGER flew to Geneva this year and had time to set up their stand and everything, before the annual event was cancelled due to the corona virus outbreak. However, the Los Angeles based company won’t be deterred that easily, and is planning to announce its global brand launch on March 10 at an exclusive event in London. As you can see, two 21C hypercars made the trip to Geneva, one of them even getting accessorized with two surfboards on top as a nod to its Californian heritage. Meanwhile, the blue vehicle also posed with a mountain bike strapped on. Czinger built the 21C, limited to just 80 cars, using revolutionary manufacturing technologies. Inside, there’s a driver-focused layout where you sit in the middle of the car as you would in a jetfighter. Of course, it’s the numbers that impress most here. Czinger claim that the 21C is capable of hitting 100 km/h from a standstill in just 1.9 seconds, while covering a 1/4 mile in 8.1 seconds. The hybrid drivetrain is said to put down 1.250 hp, while total weight was kept to less than 1.200 kg; thus obtaining a 1:1 power-to-weight ratio. Also, according to its official spec sheet, the 21C needs just 29 seconds in order to go from zero to 400 km/h and back to zero. If true, it would shatter the Koenigsegg Regera’s record of 31.49 seconds, set last year. Then there’s the 0-300-0 km/h time of 15 seconds, which is equally impressive. As for the top speed, that would be 432 km/h, which would make this one of the fastest cars in the world, flat out. +++ 

+++ The FIAT Centoventi, revealed as a concept car at 2019’s Geneva Motor Show, is on the way to showrooms, the company’s boss has confirmed. The city car study celebrated 120 years of the Fiat brand and also gave us a glimpse at a new small urban EV inspired by the Panda. Now Olivier Francois, the Fiat brand’s global president, has told me that work is already under way on making the car a reality. “At Geneva last year, we showed our other EV car, our urban baby, we are still working on it; it was not just a flash in the pan”, Francois told me. “It’s another approach to full electric. So I think we have a bright future in the full electric approach to city cars, through the 500e and through the more non-traditional approach with this minimalist, lower prince Centoventi that is very Panda-inspired”. From the outside, the Centoventi has a look that’s a futuristic evolution of the Panda city car. Design touches include chunky wheelarches and a boxy overall look, while the study features interchangeable plastic body and roof panels that will allow buyers to change the look of the car to suit their tastes. The nose also features a stylised multi-bar grille, inspired by the original Panda, but this is designed to show the charging status of the car’s electric powertrain. The Centoventi is almost certain to adopt the new all-electric architecture that debuted on the latest Fiat 500e. Francois added: “When you invest in a new platform and it is a completely new EV architecture, it is not for one car, so you will see it on other cars. It will be used to make the most of the investment, and used between nameplates and brands”. +++

+++ HONDA plans to launch a second full-electric car in Europe by 2022 to follow its retro-styled E. The automaker will begin deliveries of the E in the summer. It expects to sell about 10.000 units annually in Europe. The second EV will be 1 of 4 new electrified cars Honda will launch between 2021 and 2022, Honda’s Europe boss, Tom Gardner, told without giving any more details. Honda’s new hybrids will include a full hybrid version of the next-generation Civic, which is due in 2021. The company is also assessing the possibility of giving the Civic a plug-in hybrid version. The HR-V is expected to get a full-hybrid version. Honda could import to Europe one of its a range of hybrid models in Japan that include the Accord and Clarity plug-in hybrid. Like other automakers, Honda is adding battery-powered cars and gasoline-electric hybrids to help the company meet tougher European Union CO2 emissions reduction targets. “The regulatory agenda in Europe is accelerating the move to low- and zero-emission technologies faster than anywhere in the world”, Gardner said. Honda will this summer begin sales of a new Jazz that will be available as a hybrid only. The Jazz will also have a version called Crosstar that has been given SUV styling with roof rails, a different grille than the Jazz and side sills. Honda has shifted its focus in Europe to hybrid cars from diesels. Gardner said that the hybrid version of its CR-V, launched in 2018, now accounts for 60 % of sales in the region. Honda no longer sells a diesel version of the car. Honda will badge electrified cars under the collective name of Honda e:Technology. Hybrids such as the Jazz will be badged e:HEV. The Jazz full-hybrid uses a 1.5-liter gasoline engine mated to 2 electric motors fed by a lithium/ion battery. It has CO2 emissions of 102 grams per km under WLTP tests. The Jazz Crosstar emits 110 g/km. The Honda E has a 35.5 kWh battery and a range of 222 km using the WLTP cycle. +++ 

+++ Just a few short weeks after the new HYUNDAI i20 was unveiled, an intriguing image has surfaced showing a potential N variant. This darkened image was taken from a YouTube video recently published (but since removed) by Hyundai Austria. It showcases the side-profile of the latest i20 but in a variant adorned with a number of aggressive new parts. Some of the most obvious new parts are rally-inspired turbo fan wheels, red accents, a sharper new front bumper, a bulging hood, and a wing stretching off from the roof. Curiously, both the hood and the rear wing look like they’ve been poorly photoshopped on, so it seems apparent this is just a quick rendering put together by someone at Hyundai. If it does indeed preview a performance-focused variant of the i20, we have a lot to look forward to. Hyundai has been testing a performance-focused version of the latest i20 for the better part of a year and could deliver a thrilling rival to the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST and VW Polo GTI. Power will allegedly come from a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine with around 200 hp. This engine will send its grunt exclusively through the front wheels courtesy of a 6-speed manual transmission. A number of suspension and braking upgrades can also be expected. It seems likely that the i20 N will premiere before the year is out. If it proves to be as good as the i30 N, Hyundai’s rivals had better look out. +++ 

+++ The coronavirus outbreak and a weak economic outlook could trigger a fall of more than 15 % in car sales in ITALY this year, industry association Unrae said, calling on Rome for support. Without “timely and robust” measures, Italy’s car market risks losing about 300.000 registrations this year from around 1.92 million in 2019, when sales were up 0.3 %. The automotive industry accounts for around 10 % of Italy’s GDP, the group said. Unrae general manager Andrea Cardinali said that based on January and February market trends, before the coronavirus emergency broke, the group’s research center estimated a market drop of around 7 % this year, or 135.000 registrations. “If we add the virus impact we could more than double that, to 300,000”, he said. Unrae, which represents foreign automakers, said that environmental incentives that the government introduced a year ago on low-emission vehicles covered less than 2 % of the Italian market. Cardinali said government funds to support car purchases amounted to just €70 million this year. “That’s far too little”, he said. The death toll from the virus outbreak in Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country, rose to 148, while contagion cases rose above 3.800. The Italian government has imposed draconian measures to try to contain the virus. Shortly after the contagion first came to light on February 20, the government imposed a quarantine on 2 areas: 1 encompassing 10 Lombardy towns southeast of Milan and 1 smaller red zone in the region of Veneto to the east. Inhabitants are blocked inside the affected towns and police prevent any outsiders from entering. The government has said it would double the money pledged to help the economy cope with the impact of the virus. Statistics bureau ISTAT said Italy’s economic outlook was already negative in February, before the country was hit by the virus which has heavily disrupted the economy, especially the tourist sector. +++ 

+++ Indian automaker Tata Motors has warned of lower profit at its British luxury car brand JAGUAR LAND ROVER (JLR) for the fiscal year as the coronavirus outbreak has hit sales in China. The outbreak, which started in China and is spreading globally, has hurt sales in the world’s biggest auto market. The spread of the virus to South Korea, Japan and Northern Italy is creating similar issues, Tata said in a statement. “Recognizing the present situation is highly uncertain and could change, the reduction in China sales resulting from the corona virus presently is estimated to reduce Jaguar Land Rover’s full year PROFIT margin by about 1%”, it said. China is also a major hub for vehicle parts production and a prolonged shutdown at plants has disrupted auto supply chains affecting carmakers in all parts of the world. “Suppliers in China are resuming operations but remain below full capacity”, Tata said, adding that JLR has managed to avoid potential parts shortages by working closely with its suppliers and with some increased use of air freight. JLR has been flying Chinese parts in suitcases as well to Britain to maintain production. Tata Motors warned in January the corona virus could impact its profit margin forecast of around 3 % for the JLR unit for the fiscal year 2020 at a time when it was making progress on a turnaround plan to improve sales in China. The outbreak is also expected to have some limited impact on Tata Motors’ domestic auto business, it said. With some flexibility in the vehicle model mix, Tata Motors can maintain production up to mid-March but due to the uncertainties, it could lose out on volumes in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year ending March 31, the company said. “The timeline for a complete rebalancing of supply and demand is dependent on the further developments in the coming 4-6 weeks”, Tata said. +++ 

+++ Did you really think LAMBORGHINI would call it a day with the Huracan Evo and turn its attention to the supercar’s eventual successor? As this spy image reveals, Lamborghini is developing a hardcore version of the Huracan Evo that looks set to leave even the Performante in the dust. This spy shot have been doing the rounds on social media and show a heavily-camouflaged Huracan prototype out during a round of testing. While I’m not sure where the images were snapped, it seems apparent the car will essentially be a baby version of the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ. From the side, we can see that the nose of the V10-powered supercar has been tweaked while a set of new centerlock wheels have been fitted. The most notable aerodynamic modifications come in the form of a large roof scoop, a shark fin, and a towering rear wing, all very similar in design to what you’ll find on the Huracan Evo Super Trofeo race car. The Huracan in question will be dubbed the STO, standing for Super Trofeo Omologato. It will allegedly launch as a 2021 model year vehicle. While one may expect Lamborghini to fettle the 5.2-liter V10 of the Huracan Evo, it apparently won’t, meaning the powertrain will continue to deliver 640 hp. Making up for the lack of any power gains will be a serious dieting program that could see the Huracan STO weigh 150 kg less than a typical Evo. As it that wasn’t enough to get you excited, it’s claimed the car will be sold exclusively with rear-wheel drive. Lamborghini allegedly wants to build 700 examples of the Huracan STO but dealers are said to be pushing for a smaller production run to ensure the car’s exclusivity. By comparison, production of the Gallardo Super Trofeo Stradale and Squadra Corse was limited to 150 units and 50 units, respectively. The Huracan STO could be the final iteration of the Huracan before it’s retired. +++ 

+++ The new LOTUS Evija, an electric hypercar claimed to be “the most powerful production car in the world”, will go into production this summer, with 2020’s production run now sold out. The Evija is being built in at a refurbished facility at Lotus’s headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, called Factory 3. Work on the facility, which is a former Lotus Engineering building that was once home to the Opel Lotus Omega, is now near completion. Each of the 130 Evijas will be hand-built there. Lotus has told that all of the Evijas due to be built this year have already been sold, although it hasn’t given an exact figure. “With our new factory ready, we are ahead of the pack in the emerging EV hypercar segment and 100 % ready for some healthy competition”, said Lotus boss Phil Popham, an indirect reference to the likes of the Pininfarina Battista that have so far remained quiet on sales. Dynamic testing of the car is also well underway at Lotus’s Hethel test track, which sits adjacent to the Evija production facility. Gavan Kershaw, director of vehicle attributes at Lotus, said: “Physical prototype testing at speed is a landmark moment for the Evija and hugely exciting for everyone involved. Our aim is to make sure it’s a true Lotus in every sense, with exceptional performance that’s going to set new standards in the hypercar sector”. While most track testing will be done at Hethel, Lotus claims it will use other demanding European circuits, too. “Over the coming months several prototypes will cover many thousands of miles and hundreds of hours of driving assessment, including on public roads”, the maker said. An output of 2.000 hp is promised for the Evija, which is more than the 1.900 hp Battista and Rimac C_Two and the 1.500 hp petrol-powered Bugatti Chiron currently in production. Each of the 130 due to be built will be priced at €2.65 million. “Target specifications” include 4-wheeldrive and a 0-199kph time of less than 3 seconds. A production slot can be reserved with a refundable deposit. +++ 

+++ There’s no bigger buzzword in the car industry right now than MOBILITY : most of the major manufacturers now refer to themselves as mobility companies, trying to reflect the fact that they want to do more than just sell cars. Trouble is, few people really understand exactly what ‘mobility’ is. In fact, it’s not really clear if the firms racing to show off how good they are at ‘mobility’ even know what it is. This lack of clarity has made it hard to get people to engage, but that hasn’t stopped the industry becoming fixated by it. The reasons why are clear: profit margins on cars are being squeezed by new technology that’s set to change the way we own (or rather don’t own) and interact with vehicles, so the business models of car makers must fundamentally change. According to a 2018 report by analysis firm Accenture, revenues from global new car sales are expected to increase to around €2 trillion by 2030 but combined profits will fall from €120 billion to €115 billion. By the same date, Accenture estimates ‘mobility as a service’ (MAAS) could generate €1 trillion revenue and € 200 billion profit. There’s just one big question: how will car firms actually make that vast profit from mobility? The short answer is that they don’t know yet, and that’s because nobody really knows exactly how mobility services will evolve. But they’re in a hurry to figure it out. Effectively, mobility services is what happens beyond car ownership as we know it. At the simplest level, that includes subscription services and car-sharing schemes. While some third-party car-sharing schemes, such as Zipcar, are fairly successful, they haven’t really worked for manufacturers. Daimler and BMW recently canned their joint Share Now project (which was formed from their Drive Now and Car2Go schemes) in North America due to its lack of success. It seems the public are reluctant to pay to gain access to a branded-up hire car found in a side street when they could just own one, hire one or get an Uber. So car firms are looking to the next level of MAAS. That also goes beyond subscription services (a single payment that covers the hire, insurance and tax for a car) as they currently exist. MAAS really begins with, for example, a subscription service that gives you access to a range of cars at different times. “People want a more flexible model”, said Lex Kerssemakers, head of the Direct Consumer Business arm at Volvo. This is a stand-alone company created recently with the freedom to act as a start-up and tasked with investigating how MAAS can work in both the medium- and long-term future. Kerssemakers said the new Care by Volvo subscription service is a “spearhead” that will evolve to include “numerous ownerships or sales models”, and one that requires a structural change. That’s likely to include flexible subscriptions without long-term commitments, allowing customers to swap to different cars for short periods or when their circumstances change. But even those subscription services are based on the concept that people want to have their own car, and car makers are also looking beyond that. The latest is Toyota’s new Kinto brand, which joins other nascent mobility divisions such as Volkswagen’s Moia and the PSA Group’s Free2Move. Toyota fleet mobility boss Tom Fux said Kinto will come in “after car subscriptions and flexible owning, when peopleask if they need a car at all”. That form of mobility is likely to be focused on cities, where private car ownership is increasingly being discouraged or penalised for environmental, safety and space reasons. What nobody is certain yet is how the public will react. Will they all switch to mass transport? Or ride-hailing apps such as Uber? How about shared multi-purpose autonomous shuttles, such as Toyota’s e-Palette concept and the recently revealed Cruise Origin, which is slated for production just two years from now by a start-up owned by General Motors? Exactly how these shuttles will work and be used is unclear, too. Toyota will test deploying its creation in the host cities of the next 3 Olympic Games: Tokyo this year, then Beijing in 2022 and Paris in 2024. It will also use them in the 175 acre autonomous vehicle-only experimental city that it plans to build from scratch in Japan. The Origin is intended to first be used for a San Francisco ride-sharing service before rolling out elsewhere. Only by conducting such real-world tests will firms find out exactly how future customers will use their services and vehicles. Kinto isn’t the first mobility sub-brand of a car maker, and Luigi Luca, Toyota’s director of mobility, said that’s by design. He said the firm has learned from others and, like them, is taking a long-term approach, comparing this to the huge ahead-of-its time investment in the Prius hybrid and Mirai hydrogen fuel cell cars. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, to make it successful and profitable”, said Luca. Except, unlike a marathon, nobody actually knows where the finish line is yet, or even what it looks like. In fact, the whole concept of MAAS is still unclear, in particular how it might work in the more limited infrastructure outside of cities. Still, the appeal to car firms is clear: mobility services offer more opportunities to interact with customers, which means more opportunities to sell things to them. Currently, a car maker might interact with a customer every three years, when it’s time to negotiate a new PCP finance deal. But the increasing connectivity of cars will soon create an opportunity to sell apps, products and services through their infotainment systems. Think of how subscriptions and micropayments have changed the whole economies of the music, mobile phone and computer game industries. Mobility services could take that a step further: car firms would make money every time you hail an autonomous ridesharing vehicle, for example. Except they might not, because it’s yet to be proven that people will do so. In theory, MAAS opens vast new revenue streams to car firms: selling products to people who don’t own a car. Although nobody yet knows how to exploit these streams, or if they really exist. And it’s not just car companies trying to take a chunk out of that theoretically lucrative market: technology firms and existing app-based ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber are as well. That has forced car makers into an approach akin to technology start-ups: they are trying to create and grow mobility businesses right now and will worry about how to make money from them later. They’re convinced there is money to be made, though. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll find something else”, said Kerssemakers on Volvo’s early efforts. “I’m convinced it will work but, if not, we’ll fine tune it or find something else to apply to the changing trends”. +++ 

+++ NISSAN has invested €450 million in its Sunderland plant, including €60 million for a new extra-large metal press, in preparation for production of the third-generation Qashqai later this year. Some of the statistics around the new press are extraordinary. It can exert 5.400 tonnes of pressure, produce over 6.1 million vehicle panels a year, weighs more than 2.000 tonnes and took 18 months to install. It also features a new recycling system to segregate and process scrap, as well as upgrades to an existing blanking line that supplies sheets of metal ready to be pressed. The first panel to be produced by the new line was a wing for a Nissan Juke, which is currently in its second generation. March 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the first ever Juke rolling off the Sunderland plant’s production line. The current model has been built exclusively at the plant since October 2019. The €450 million investment follows a previous injection of €115 million for Juke production and is part of an overall package of €1.15 billion being spent on the factory over the course of five years. Nissan’s investment has been supported by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the new press line, Nissan’s chief operating officer, Ashwani Gupta, said: “When the first Qashqai rolled off the line in Sunderland in 2006, it created the crossover segment. Designed, engineered and made in the United Kingdom, and more than 3 million vehicles later, it remains the benchmark, just as our team in the UK continues to set the standard for productivity and quality”. Steve Marsh, vice president of manufacturing at Nissan Sunderland, added: “Watching the first perfect panels coming off the press was a proud moment, and is a reflection of the tremendous skills we have here on Wearside. The Juke is an iconic model. I know I speak for the whole plant in saying how proud we are to see the fantastic new version out on the roads, and that we are determined to keep delivering it to the quality levels our customers have come to expect”. +++

+++ PSA boss Carlos Tavares said PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will need to review their strategy in China in order to boost sales after the closing of the merger between the 2 groups. PSA and FCA are hoping to finalise a $50 billion merger in early 2021 that would create the fourth-biggest car maker in the world. “We are in China to stay, we need to find a formula in order to succeed”, Tavares said. Car sales of PSA in China have dropped by 55 % to 117.084 units in 2019 due to fierce competition from local rivals. Its production site in the country is tailored to produce 1 million cars per year. FCA has a co-enterprise with Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) in China, which has a 0.35 % market share for passenger cars. FCA Group vehicles’ sales in China were down to 90.000 in 2019 from 163.000 in 2018, according to its annual report. +++ 

+++ Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming so mainstream that consumers now expect makers to “tick all the boxes”, such as offering hot variants, according to RENAULT EV boss Gilles Normand. While there are no official plans yet for an RS badged EV, the French manufacturer is evaluating the requirements of a performance EV and planning focus groups to find out where demand is. Normand said a hot EV is likely to have less range than a standard one and that there’s also a question over the lack of engine sound in a go-faster EV. He said: “Historically, performance cars have less range than a normal car, so people will be ready for less driving range, but how much less is a discussion we’re in now. People are also a little worried that there is no noise. If we go for a performance car with EVs, we came to the conclusion that we have to generate a nice noise artificially”. Renault product planning boss Ali Kassaï has previously told that the firm wanted to lead the way with hot EVs. “The timeframe has to be short to launch a hot EV”, he said, “because we were the leader in EVs, so we need to keep up the pace. I hope to see one in 3 years. We have been thinking about this for a long time. It will happen the day when the technology road blocks are removed. This means high performance but also sustainability of performance and making economic sense”. +++ 

+++ Driver distraction and tiredness account for more than a third of collisions on the road, so automakers have started developing new technologies that help minimize these risks. SEAT ’s Xplora team has partnered with Israel-based Eyesight Technologies to create a new system that detects whether drivers are keeping their eyes on the road or not. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), the technology includes an algorithm that analyzes the position of the head, angle of vision, eye openness and blink rate, as well as other parameters, to determine whether the driver is fully awake and aware of the surrounding environment. Should it detect drowsiness, sleepiness or distraction, the system will trigger an alert. “In total, more than 90 % of the road accidents in Europe are caused by human factor. The main reasons include distraction and tiredness, excessive speed and alcohol and drugs”, said Seat’s chief of product innovation, Stefan Ilijevic. “At SEAT, we are working on solutions to prevent negligence behind the steering wheel and significantly reduce road accidents. We partner with some of the world’s brightest companies on important technology to save lives, since our long-term vision is a world with zero accidents”. In addition to monitoring drivers, the technology can also identify them from previous trips and adjust the seats, mirrors, HVAC and others according to their preferences. The system will further be developed and will be able to detect pedestrians in the future, while also analyzing whether those behind the wheel have noticed them as well. Another Israeli start-up collaborating with Seat for new technologies that can be adapted to cars is Gauzy. The company’s goal is to make windows more private and they have come up with an active glazing tech that adapts to weather conditions. The system allows users to darken the windows within legal limits to avoid sun dazzling, or lighten them at nighttime or in poor visibility conditions. +++ 

+++ TESLA has secured Chinese government approval to sell longer-range China-made Model 3 vehicles in China, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said. The vehicles will have a driving range of more than 600 kilometers before they need to be recharged, the ministry said in a statement, while the current China-made Model 3 has a standard driving range of more than 400 kilometers. Tesla started delivering cars in December from its $2 billion factory in Shanghai. +++

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